Essay: Quality of water in Witbank

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  • Quality of water in Witbank
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I chose to tackle the problem of water quality in Witbank where my focus will not be on the quality of tap water but rather on the quality if water in the Olifants River and the Witbank Dam.
The quality of water in both the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River is poor.
My intentions are to not only source from the internet and books about water quality but to include at least one article dedicated to the contributing factors of poor water quality. This will not only answer the question of water quality but the cause of water quality.
I will collect water samples from the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River in order to test the water quality. I will use the following tests for:
‘ Concentration of salts in the water ‘ water with a high concentration of dissolved salts can cause problems because it can be dangerous to drink and can kill plants and aquatic life.
‘ The acidity or alkalinity of water ‘ water that is very acidic or basic is dangerous for human consumption and is not safe to swim in, it also kills aquatic animals.
‘ The concentration of nitrite ions in the water ‘ the nitrogen in the nitrite ions is an important food for plants. High concentrations of nitrites in water are poisonous to aquatic organisms and to humans.
‘ The concentration of oxygen in the water ‘ plants and animals that live in the water need oxygen in order to survive.
‘ The turbidity of the water ‘ turbidity is the measure of how cloudy or muddy the water in a river or dam is. Turbid waters may have high concentrations of bacteria and viruses in it, stop aquatic plants from growing and clog the gills of aquatic animals.
‘ A Tetra test ‘ this tests nitrites and nitrates, general hardness, carbonate hardness, pH and then finally to test the temperature.
The results from these tests will then be tabled then graphed. The tables and graphs will then be accompanied by summaries of the results.
With reference to the accuracy of the hypothesis, will give a unified theory as to quality of water from both sources as well as its explanation.
Introduction
Pollution is the addition of contaminants by man into a system which cause adverse change in the system.
Water pollution is adding to the water sources external substances like chemicals but the problem is not in the addition of these substances but rather the amount of substance used as most water systems can handle a certain amount of substance without being harmful to the life of the water source.
There are different types of water pollution such as atmospheric deposition, radioactive waste, oil pollution, plastics and toxic metals. The primary effect of all types of water pollution is that they disrupt the natural order of the marine system it is in and the most common effect is the reduction of oxygen levels in the marine system. The tests which can be used to the extent of pollution are:
‘ Concentration of salts in water in water ‘ in order to test the concentration of salts in water we test the water’s electronegativity. High concentrations of salts in water are unsafe for human, aquatic and plant life because the consumption of higher concentrations of salt increases the chances of stroke and heart attacks because it thickens and clots the blood.
‘ Acidity or alkalinity in water ‘ Acidic or basic water is unsafe for human consumption or for aquatic life because its corrosive properties corrode the lining of the mouth, oesophagus and intestines and although that has no immediate effect, it causes a few problems in the long run.
‘ Concentration of nitrite ions in water ‘ High concentrations of nitrite ions in the water are harmful to aquatic life and human life as they act to increase the levels of methemoglobin which inhibit oxygen transportation.
‘ Oxygen concentration in water ‘ Living organisms need oxygen to survive because bodily functions are regulated by it as it energises the cells so that they can regenerate.
‘ Turbidity of water ‘ This stops plant growth, clogs gills, have high concentrations of viruses and bacteria. Which then easily infect aquatic life if any survives or any people who come into contact with the water.
‘ Tetra test ‘ nitrites and nitrates promotes the growth of algae and harm the fish. ‘ General hardness deals with the concentration of calcium and magnesium which have a direct impact in the cells of living organisms such as fish and plants. ‘ carbonate hardness acts as a ph. buffer and prevents drastic changes in the ph. ‘ ph. measures the acidity and alkalinity of the water as marine life is very sensitive to ph. and any drastic changes in it so then determines what organisms live in the water. ‘ Temperature determines the type of fish life which can survive in the water and how much any chemicals have influenced change in temperature.
I will be testing the Witbank dam and Olifants River according to the above tests so as to determine the water quality and how it may affect its dependants such as recreational activities, the marine life which exists in it and what potential macro invertebrates marine life which could live in it and also the nature reserve which surrounds it, including the irrigation and farming systems it supports.
The main factors in the pollution system of the Witbank dam and the Olifants River could include acid mine drainage from the surrounding mines, phosphate drainage from farms into the river which feeds into the dam and also the developments which are continuously happening in the area.
Witbank dam located ‘ in the city of Witbank in eMalahleni
Olifants River located ‘ flows from Groot Winterhoek and feeds into the Witbank Dam.
Hypothesis
The quality of water in both Witbank Dam and the Olifants River is poor.

Case study 1
Synopsis
In this case study in Witbank eMalahleni, the Protea Hotel in Jellicoe Street and Protea Highveld Hotel, put up notices in their hotels warning people not to drink the tap water from the hotel or anywhere else in the city for that matter as it is not safe to drink. The hotels had conducted tests in order to be sure of Witbank’s tap water quality where they found that it was not. The ph. levels were acidic, there was an acid mine water influx, the colour of the water was yellow and the water had a high faecal count.
Relation to hypothesis
The results which the Protea Hotels found show that my hypothesis might be correct since Olifants River feeds into the Witbank Dam and the Witbank Dam is also used for domestic use so water from the taps is not good. Since water from the Witbank Dam goes through a purification system before it reaches the taps, the more polluted the dam water the greater the strain on the purification process.
Limitations
The limitations it has is that we are not told the name or identity of the person or group which was used to perform the tests, how the tests were performed and where the samples of water came from and the time of year in which the tests were conducted we aren’t sure of the scientific background of the people who conducted the experiments.
In addition this test only tests pH and I will be testing 6 criteria in the water which should give me a better overview on the water quality. This test is performed on tap water and my focus is the dam and river water.
Reliability
‘ How scientific ‘ since we are not told how, where and who the tests were done by then I cannot therefore say that any of these test results given are scientific even though the results were given in a scientific nature.
‘ Credibility ‘ it was published in a newspaper article therefore we don’t have any evidence of scientific background.

Case Study 2
Synopsis
This particular case study took place in the eMalahleni region, where they looked at the Witbank Dam as the main source of water for Witbank and a few other places near to it. the focus of the article was the water levels of the Witbank Dam which showed some concern about water levels of the dam as compared to the previous years but stated that plans for an additional supply of water to the dam were to be taken to consideration, but that it wasn’t much of a concern because the rains seemed to be well underway. Tests for pH, turbidity, electrical conductivity, nitrate, sulphate, iron, manganese were performed, these where to compare the purity of the raw water from the purified water. The basic results which were graphed for the water level showed a 4% drop in the water level of the dam and the tabulated results for the various tests conducted showed a drop in the presence of hard metals and a more neutral ph. Thus, there was an improvement of the quality of water, but it also reveals increased levels of the heavy metal manganese which lurk lower in the dam due to its weight. Since the water levels dropped, then the exposure to manganese is greater.
How does it relate to my hypothesis?
This relates to my hypothesis because it questions the water quality of the Witbank Dam as it shows that the Witbank Dam has an increased amount of manganese. This article also refers to some of the tests that I will be conducting such as the test for ph. levels, turbidity, nitrates and the electro conductivity of the water and so this adds to my research as it offers a comparison.
Limitations
Where they took their water samples, this is an article from a Facebook post, the time of year at which the tests were done and the manner in which the tests were done, the person who did the test (qualification).
Reliability
‘ How scientific ‘ the results yielded in article seem to be scientific but we cannot assume that the article is scientific because it was not published in a scientific forum and of the qualifications of the person or people who conducted the tests.
‘ Who did it/How it was performed ‘ we are not told who did the tests or how they were performed.
‘ Credibility ‘ although the information is scientific we cannot assume that this article is very credible because we are not told who performed the tests or how they performed the experiments and the therefore these results could be just numbers.
Case Study 3
Synopsis
This took place at the Olifants River which has been polluted for a long time and is considered one of the most polluted rivers in Southern Africa. Experiments were done to ascertain whether or not surface water from the Olifants River is safe to use. These tests included tests for ph. and the electro conductivity of the water. The test for ph. shows how acidic or basic the water is and from that we can then conclude the type of fish which can survive there. Mining impact is tested by using sulphate as indicator of the extent of mining on the water. Basic results show that with the correct purification processes, surface water from the Olifants River can be used.
How does it relate to my hypothesis?
This confirms that the Olifants River is polluted but shows that there is a way in which to use the polluted water.
Limitations
We don’t know who did the tests and there their qualification, when the tests were conducted, how the tests where done.
Reliability
‘ How scientific ‘ this was scientific as there was the use of scientific experiments in order to ascertain the safety of the water.
‘ Who did it/How it was performed ‘ conducted by the Department of water affairs. A series of scientific tests were used including electrical conductivity, pH and sulphate as an indicator of mining impact.
‘ Credibility ‘ these experiments being carried out by the department of water affairs makes this article credible
Case Study 4
Synopsis
In this case study which took place in the upper Olifants River, we look at a summary of the study and tests which were done in order to ascertain the quality of water in the Olifants River. Tests for the water quality were conducted so conclude its land use impacts and the impact that atmospheric deposition has on the river water. The tests for bioaccumulation (concentration of trace metals) showed no particular trend as the concentrations differed each time they were tested for but still show that the river is polluted by trace metals. Eutrophication found that the sources of the river nutrients are from acid mine drainage and from sewage systems and therefore rendering the water quality to be poor.
How does it relate to my hypothesis?
This article proves my hypothesis as it shows that the quality of water in the Olifants river system has been affected by acid mine drainage, trace metals and raw sewage.
Limitations
Not a lot of tests were done in line with the quality of water. The tests were done over a period of time which allowed for change of seasons and therefore the results were affected by this and the results could not be conclusive.
Reliability
‘ How scientific ‘ results yielded were displayed in a very scientific way but we are not told how the experiments were done.
‘ Who did it/How it was performed ‘ this summary was conducted by the CSIR which is a reliable source of scientific information about the province.
‘ Credibility ‘ the summary becomes credible when we see that the tests were done by a reputable company which has been mentioned above so the summary is credible.
Case study 5
Synopsis
This case study revolves around the safety of water from the Vaal River. In 2009, Golder’s Water Resources Division went to the Vaal River to conduct a water quality status assessment, evaluate water management scenarios and modelling water quality management strategies. After having done this, they then found that the two worst effects on the river were the salinity and eutrophication in the water due to sewage influx from various places where the river runs along.
Link to Hypothesis
Deals with the pollution of rivers and the management of the polluted rivers and suggests a way in which to deal with polluted rivers using a step by step process.
Limitations
They only give the results of two tests and we aren’t told what other tests were conducted if any and we don’t know how the tests were done.
Reliability
‘ How scientific ‘ the test results were not shown in a scientific manner but were merely stated.
‘ Who did it/how was it performed ‘ the tests were done by a science group called Golder but we are not told how the tests were done.
‘ Credibility ‘ since the tests were done by a scientists the case study becomes credible.
Methodology
‘ After an adequate topic has been chosen, background research and reading must be done to better understand the topic.
‘ Do a project proposal which includes the reasons for chosen topic, the planned literary review, basic methodology and conclusion.
‘ Formulate introduction including explanation of topic and its impact. What is water pollution and its causes? The tests to be done to deem the water quality of Witbank Dam and Olifants River and why those particular tests have been chosen.
‘ Source five case studies which will be used in literary reviews whereby the case study is discussed using the headings; synopsis, link to hypothesis, limitations and reliability.
‘ Select different sites in both the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River from which to collect water samples.
‘ Once water samples have been collected, use the tests which had been chosen to test the quality of the water.
‘ Conduct the electro conductivity tests in order to test for the concentration of salts in the water.
‘ Conduct a ph. test to determine whether or not the water is acidic, basic or neutral. if the paper turns red then ph is more acidic, if the paper turns blue/purple then the water is more basic.
‘ Conduct a test for nitrites and nitrates as they are a food source but large amounts aren’t safe. The higher concentration of nitrite ions in the water the more dye that is formed and the darker the ink that the solution will go.
‘ Conduct a test to determine whether the oxygen levels of the water are adequate for most marine life. If there is a high concentration of oxygen then water will turn pink but if not then the water will remain the same.
‘ Conduct a test for the turbidity of the water.
‘ Conduct a tetra test.
‘ Conduct a mini sass study.
‘ Table and graph all the findings and include a discussion of the research and the tests that were done.
‘ Conclude the project by referring to the hypothesis
‘ Reference all sourced material
‘ Include plagiarism checker.
Experiment Methodology
Aim: test the ph of the sample water.
‘ Dip litmus paper into sample paper.
‘ Shake off excess water
‘ Observe changes
Aim: test for nitrites and nitrates.
‘ Add one drop of nitrite indicator to two water well
‘ Add sixteen drops of sample water to the wells
‘ Stir well.
‘ Observe colour change.
Aim: test for turbidity.
‘ Fill a beaker with sample water, twenty centimetres deep.
‘ Stand beaker on turbidity disk.
‘ Look at the disk, from twenty centimetres away, look at the disk through the water.
‘ Determine which numbers are visible.
Aim: conduct tetra test.
‘ Remove test strip from the container without touching the test fields.
‘ Dip the strip in sample water for a second and shake off excess water.
‘ After a minute, compare strip to the colours on the container.
‘ Take water tempreture.
Aim: conduct mini sass study.
‘ Identify the organisms in the sample water.
‘ Use the identity sheet to score the organisms.
‘ Find average.
Aim: test for tempreture.
‘ Use a standard thermometer.
‘ Dip it as far down into the water as you can, for a minute.
‘ Record the results.
Temperature
The ideal functioning temperature for a river system and of a dam system(at the surface) is 18 degrees Celsius and this, depending on the time of day, means that the temperature deeper in the water drops by 5 degrees or more which is the temperature at which fish and other river organisms perform at their best.
The average temperatures of the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River were both 21 degrees Celsius.
This means that the water temperature may not be most suitable for the some fish life because of causes such as climate change and drought which causes the river levels to drop.
The temperature of both the river and the dam could also have been affected by pollution such as litter and dirt from nearby construction sites and mines.
The temperature can be used a primarily as an indicator for river health because causes can include pollution such as sand, silt, acids and organic compounds which kill fish life or cause their migration which is also not good because the river dynamics shift and not necessarily for the best.
The limitations are that the surface temperature of a river or of a dam change depending on the time of day because of sun exposure and absence of sun, therefore an accurate reading would be that of deeper down in the water where the temperature is not as easily susceptible to the elements. Another limitation is that the test was conducted by a group of amateur scientists without any formal scientific qualifications which may weigh on the reliability of the results and also how they are then interpreted.\
Ph.
Ph. Is the acidity or alkalinity of water, water can be neutral. A neutral ph. is the best case scenario.
Ph. Is a very important factor in river and dam systems such as the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River because its ph. needs to balance and needs to be neutral because acidity or alkalinity of a water system can kill of fish and plant life by corrosion. Also considering that the local municipalities draw from the Witbank Dam for water to supply water to households (the water will then be purified), a ph. balance which is not neutral is unsafe for human consumption because it corrodes the body and causes sickness.
The causes of acidity and alkalinity in a river or dam system vary and change. In table2, we see an outlier in the ph. (6.5) of the Witbank Dam and a medley of results from the Olifants River, which then shows that ph. is susceptible to change and different parts of the river or dam in a space of no more than a hundred metres. The ph. of these water systems can be affected by factors like acid mine drainage, pollution from the nearby construction sites and litter. When looking at the Olifants River, it is worth noting its length as that means that there are more opportunities for pollution along the way before it reaches the site chosen for the test. This means the average ph. is then 8.5 for the Witbank dam and 5 for the Oliphant’s river.
Limitations include only conducting the test once at one site at the surface of the river and the dam.
Nitrites and Nitrates
Nitrites above a concentration of 0.15mg/l-N is poisonous to fish and that of 1mg/l-N is poisonous to humans especially babies as they or event blood from carrying oxygen. They also cause eutrophication. In table 3 and table 5 we see the high presence of nitrites and nitrates and in the Olifants River it is apparent as there was compelling evidence of eutrophication.
The nitrites come from farms, mines and even urine. They exist as ammonia then change into nitrites and nitrates in the dam. In farms they are used as plant food but then drain into the river system. Factors such as mining, farming and burst sewage lines are major contributors to eutrophication which reduces the amount of fish life the river can sustain which was evident in the mini sass study. The results show an excess of nitrites and nitrates causing an absence of microorganisms due to the absence of oxygen.
Limitations include conducting the test only once at one time at the surface of the river and dam.
Turbidity
Turbidity is the transparency of water. It determines how clear water is and how polluted it may be.
Table 6 shows that while the Witbank Dam is very turbid with none of the values visible, the Olifants River is not, it is actually quite clear with all numbers visible including 4 which is the hardest to see. The reasons for this may be that the Olifants River flows and therefore the dirt is washed to the banks of the river and the water is then clear but in the dam the water is relatively stagnant therefore the dirt doesn’t get washed to the edges as fast but also considering that the sample was taken relatively close to the edge of the dam may show that the dirt was being washed to the sides which may have been a contributing factor to the results yielded.
The causes of the turbidity may have been the nearby construction sites and the mines and pollution by litter by humans who come to the dam for recreational purposes and for fishing.
Limitations may include taking a sample for the edge of the river at one time from the relative surface.
Tetra test.
The tetra test was a quick and convenient way to test for ph., nitrites, nitrates, phosphates which then yielded the same results. The results of the tests correspond with the separate tests we did showing the Witbank Dam to be alkaline and the Olifant’s to be acidic, an excess of nitrites and nitrates in both water sources with the Olifants having severe eutrophication.
Limitations include possible contamination of the test strip. Testing at one site and the depth at which the sample was collected.
Mini Sass Study
Table 7, table 8, figure 3 and figure 4 all illustrate the results of the mini sass study. The graphs and tables show the macro organisms found during the experiment and how they indicate the water’s health.
In the graphs and tables, the conclusion drawn is that both the Witbank Dam (3.5) and the Olifants River (5.6) do not provide the best living conditions for fish life. The Olifants is far worse though because of the lack of variety in the macro organisms found.
The results show cause for change.
Limitations include collecting samples from one place at one time and the limited equipment.
Conclusion
The results of the temperature show that the average temperatures of the Witbank Dam and the Olifants River of 21 degrees Celsius may not be the best conditions for some fish but considering the time of day and atmospheric temperature, the temperature is suitable for most fish. Since temperature can be used as a primary indicator of river health, these results are not conclusive and they cannot be used to determine the health of the river. Another reason for the slightly higher temperature of water than what is suitable for most fish may be that the water samples were collected at the surface of the water sources meaning that the water closest to the atmosphere would be warmer due to hot sun. The Mini Sass study shows that temperature is not conclusive because in the Witbank Dam there were quite a few macro invertebrates which could be collected but the Olifants River had notably fewer and the different scores also support this theory.
The ph. of a river or dam may be used as an indicator of the health of the water source and as the corrosive characteristics of a basic or acidic ph., make for unfavourable living conditions for the fish because of the negative effect on the food and the gills of the fish. The alkaline ph. of the Witbank Dam(8.5) and the acidic ph. of the Olifants River(6) should mean that both water sources do not have favourable conditions for most fish and this is very evident in the Olifants but not as much in the Witbank Dam as there were many macroinvertebrates found in it. The outlier in the Witbank dam shows that the ph. is very susceptible to change due to factors like point of acid mine drainage entering the river.
Turbidity interferes with the ability of the fish to see clearly and clogs the gills so the fish ends up not getting sufficient oxygen and most fish need a substantial amount of oxygen in order to survive. Eutrophication is not a form of turbidity but it is similar in that vision of the fish is partially lost and its presence causes a lack of oxygen in the water for the fish so therefore the water becomes unsuitable for fish or other types of plant life to survive in it causing migrations and sometimes extinction of the fish and plant. Nitrites and nitrates are also poisonous in a certain concentration to fish and babies.
The Mini Sass Study and the Tetra test prove the results of the experiments to be true in that the tetra test sowed the same results and the mini Sass scores of the water sources show the grades of the water sources especially the olifants river to be less than satisfactory.
All the experiments carried out have similar limitations such as water depth factor, climate factor and carrying out the experiments at one site only once.

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